Following an increase in reports of discrimination, Yelp, the platform used to rate and review various businesses, has created a new feature to warn users about establishments accused of racism.
According to Yelp, the alert will help consumers decide whether they’ll be welcome at a particular business. However, it’s already receiving criticism by people who claim it will be used to “destroy” merchants with false allegations.
Yelp says it will place the notice on the profiles of businesses that see an influx of reviews after getting public attention for reports of “racist conduct.” It will also direct users to news articles with more details about the allegations.
The label is an extension of Yelp’s efforts to flag businesses that are overwhelmed by reviews from consumers who have seen news reports or social media posts about the establishment.
This has become a more common occurrence amid the Black Lives Matter movement that swept the nation this summer. Yelp said it placed more than 450 alerts on businesses’ pages that were accused of or targeted by racist behavior between May 26 and September 30.
Yelp already adds a “Public Attention Alert” to such profiles and temporarily blocks users from posting reviews on them while it confirms whether the previous posts were based on first-hand experiences.
The platform will now add a more specific “Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert” when the allegations involve blatant racism and Yelp can link to a relevant news story about them. The company says it generally removes consumer alerts like these after 90 days if the offending behavior stops.
“As the nation reckons with issues of systemic racism, we’ve seen in the last few months that there is a clear need to warn consumers about businesses associated with egregious, racially-charged actions to help people make more informed spending decisions,” Noorie Malik, Yelp’s vice president of user operations, wrote in a Thursday blog post announcing the move.
But the announcement drew fire from conservative commentators who say Yelp is opening the floodgates for false allegations of racism by angry customers.
“Yelp is really giving race hoaxers a specific tool to destroy any business they want on a whim,” conservative blogger Matt Walsh wrote on Twitter. “This is an inducement to false accusation and thuggery,” tweeted Dinesh D’Souza, the far-right commentator pardoned by President Trump following his 2014 guilty plea to campaign-finance violations. “What if a bunch of people wantonly accuse [Yelp] of racism? Will they place a racist alert on their own company?”
Republican lawyer Harmeet K. Dhillon argued Yelp was “weaponizing defamation” and opening itself up to lawsuits. Others pointed to a recent Business Insider article about alleged racist behavior within the company’s Phoenix office.
Asked about the criticisms, a Yelp spokesperson said the platform’s alerts “are meant to bring more information to the forefront” and notify users that they might see reviews that aren’t based on first-hand experiences. Some commenters praised the company for trying to protect consumers from racists and slammed critics’ knee-jerk reactions.
“The whites [seem] really pissed about this, but as a black man, I wanna eat where I’m safe and not a threat,” Shawn Rosell tweeted. “Good for Yelp.” “Yelp really pissed every single racist off and it’s mind-blowing how absolutely idiotic they all sound, not making a lick of sense,” wrote Airika Nicole.
Yelp shares were down about 1.3 percent at $20.80 as of 12:49 p.m. Friday.